Cleaning Out the DVR #18: Remember Those Fabulous Sixties?


cracked rear viewer

There’s a lot of good stuff being broadcast this month, so it’s time once again to make some room on the ol’ DVR. Here’s a quartet of capsule reviews of films made in that mad, mad decade, the 1960’s:

THE FASTEST GUITAR ALIVE (MGM 1967; D: Michael D. Moore) –  MGM tried to make another Elvis out of rock legend Roy Orbison in this Sam Katzman-produced comedy-western. It didn’t work; though Roy possessed one of the greatest voices in rock’n’roll, he couldn’t act worth a lick. Roy (without his trademark shades!) and partner Sammy Jackson (TV’s NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS) peddle ‘Dr. Ludwig Long’s Magic Elixir’ in a travelling medicine show, but are really Confederate spies out to steal gold from the San Francisco mint to fund “the cause” in the waning days of the Civil War. The film’s full of anachronisms and the ‘comical Indians’ aren’t all that funny…

View original post 728 more words

Embracing The Melodrama Part III #5: Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (dir by Guy Green)


“Only in the movies, baby.” 

— Mike Wayne (Kirk Douglas) in Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (1975)

Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (for that indeed is the unwieldy title of this little movie) opens with a shot of two Oscars sitting on an end table.  Those Oscars belong to Mike Wayne (Kirk Douglas), a legendary Hollywood producer who hasn’t had a hit in way too long.  He’s struggling financially.  He may even have to fire his maid (Lillian Randolph), despite the many years that she’s spent making sure he wakes up and remembers to take a shower before leaving the house.  What choice does Mike have but to marry Deidre Milford Granger (Alexis Smith), the world’s sixth richest woman?  Mike doesn’t even mind that Deidre is having an affair with Karla (Melina Mercouri).

That makes sense to everyone by Mike’s daughter, January (Deborah Raffin).  As Mike explains it, January’s name came about as a result of January being born in January.  So, I guess if I was Mike’s daughter, I would have been named November.  Everyone in the film thinks that Mike’s being terribly clever by naming his daughter after her birthday but, to me, that just sounds lazy.

Does January have some issues?  Well, when she returns to America after getting into a serious motorcycle accident in Europe, she greets her father by cheerfully saying, “I hope nobody thinks we’re father and daughter.  I hope they think you’re a dirty old man and I’m your broad.”

Agck!  That sounds like the set up for a Freudian nightmare but instead, the film’s rather blasé about the whole incestuous subtext of January’s relationship with her father.  Mike is soon pushed to the side as the movie follows January as she tries to make a life for herself in New York City.  Fortunately, she’s able to land a job at a magazine, working for her old college friend, Linda (Brenda Vacarro).  In college, Linda was smart and homely but she has since had so much plastic surgery that January doesn’t even recognize her.  Linda’s either found the greatest plastic surgeon in the world or else January is just really, really stupid.

Linda gets all the best lines.  While talking about all of the work that she’s had done, she takes the time to brag that she had everything fixed by her navel, which she declares to be perfect.  When January comments that Linda is beautiful, Linda replies, “And now ugly is in!  I want my old nose back!”

Linda is stunned to learn that January is still a virgin but that problem is solved once January goes out on a few dates with David (George Hamilton), who is Deidre’s cousin.  David and January go out to a club and January is shocked when a random woman throws a drink in David’s face.  Later, January goes back to David’s apartment, which turns out to be the epitome of 70s tackiness.  When January asks David why the carpet and all of the furniture is red, David replies, “I wanted it to look like a bordello.”

Things don’t really work out between January and David but don’t worry!  January soon meets the world-renowned author, Chest Hair McGee (David Janssen)!  Okay, actually his name is Tom Colt.

Tom spends almost the entire movie drunk and acting obnoxious but January falls in love with him.  And, of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s the same age as her father.  No, of course not.  Instead, she’s charmed by the way he slurs the line, “Forgive me, I can’t take my eyes off of your ass!”

January is convinced that she and Tom are going to be together forever.  Of course, Mike hates Tom.  And there is the fact that Tom’s married.  Literally everyone in the movie tells January that Tom is never going to leave his wife but I guess we’re still supposed to be shocked when Tom tells her that he’ll never leave his wife.  He does, however, thank her for allowing “a broken-down old man” to “feel like a stud.”  In the end, nothing really works out for January but she’s such an annoying and vacuous character that you really don’t mind.

Based on a novel by the same author who gave the world The Valley of the Dolls, Once Is Not Enough is a movie that manages to be both remarkably bad and also surprisingly watchable.  Some of that is because the film is a time capsule of 70s fashion, 70s decor, and 70s slang.  A lot more of it is because the cast is made up of such an odd mishmash of performers and acting styles that nobody seems like they should be in the same movie.  Kirk Douglas grimaces.  George Hamilton looks embarrassed.  David Janssen lurches through the film like a drunk trying to remember where he lives.  Alexis Smith and Melina Mercouri chew every piece of scenery they can find while Brenda Vaccaro shouts her lines as if hoping the increased volume will keep us from noticing what she’s actually saying.  Poor Deborah Raffin wanders through the film with a dazed look on her face.  Can you blame her?

Interestingly enough, Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough actually was nominated for an Oscar.  Brenda Vaccaro was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Admittedly, Vaccaro does probably come the closest of anyone in the cast to creating an interesting character but I still have to wonder just how weak the Supporting Actress field was in 1975.

Anyway, this incredibly silly and tacky film is a lot of fun, though perhaps not in the way that it was originally intended to be.  Between the nonstop drama, the unintentionally hilarious dialogue, and the weird performances, the film plays out like a cartoon character’s dream of the 70s.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at another silly and tacky film from the same decade, 1978’s The Betsy!

Film Review: Day of the Warrior (dir by Andy Sidaris)


 

“Bring him in from the cold?  That’s real spy talk.  I love it when you do that.”

— J. Tyler Ward (Christian Letelier) in The Day Of The Warrior (1996)

Here’s two good things about the 1996 Andy Sidaris film, The Day of the Warrior:

First, a good deal of the film takes place in Dallas.  As I’ve said before, I’m always happy to see my hometown in a movie, regardless of whether the movie is good or terrible.  The Day of the Warrior not only reveals that a division of the Legion To Ensure Total Harmony And Law (a.k.a. L.E.T.H.A.L.) operates out of Dallas but also that it’s apparently headquartered on the top floor of the Bank America Plaza.  Willow Black (Julie Strain, who had previously played a villain in three separate Sidaris films) is the new head of the Dallas branch.  Apparently, her job largely consists of working out on the treadmill in her office.

The other good thing about The Day of the Warrior is that one L.E.T.H.A.L’s top agents is named Doc Austin (Kevin Light).  Unlike the Abilene cousins that appeared in Sidaris’s previous films, Doc appears to actually be good at his job.  For one thing, he can actually shoot a gun and his dialogue isn’t exclusively made up of painful double entendres.  But my reason for liking Doc Austin is because he shares his first name with my cat and his last name with one of my favorite cities.

Anyway, the film itself is pretty stupid but you probably already guessed that as soon as I mentioned that it’s an Andy Sidaris film.  The latest international super villain is a guy named the Warrior (Marcus Bagwell).  The Warrior used to be an agent with the CIA but, when the Cold War ended, he discovered that he was out of a job.  Because The Warrior’s mother was half-Native American, he decided to start wearing war paint and launched a career as a professional wrestler.  However, The Warrior’s wrestling career was really just a cover so that he could safely travel the world and set up his own black market operation.  He deals drugs.  He sells weapons.  He dabbles in human trafficking.  “The SOB is even into pirating porno flicks,” Willow says.  The Warrior takes the whole professional wrestling thing pretty seriously.  At one point, he gives orders to his henchmen while standing in the middle of a wrestling ring.

(It’s also established that The Warrior lives in “north Dallas.”  You probably actually have to be from Dallas to get the joke but, as far as Sidaris humor goes, it’s a good one.)

LETHAL has several agents working undercover in The Warrior’s organization.  Apparently, they’re so deep undercover that not even Willow Black knows how to get in contact with them.  (To be honest, that would seem to be kind of counterproductive but I’m not an international super spy so what do I know?)  However, The Warrior has employed a computer hacker known as Hard Drive.  (The Warrior calls him “Mr. Drive.”)  When The Warrior manages to compromise LETHAL’s computer systems, Willow and her agents not only have to track down the people undercover but they also have to stop whatever it is that The Warrior is planning to do.

(The Warrior’s ultimate scheme was never easy to figure out.  He seemed to spend most of his time flexing his muscles.)

As for the undercover agents, Doc Austin is investigating drug dealers in South Texas.  Scorpion (Tammy Parks) and Shark (Darren Wise) are trying to infiltrate The Warrior’s Vegas-based porn operation.  Fu (Gerald Okamura) is working as an Elvis impersonator.  Cobra (Julie K. Smith) is working as an exotic dancer in Beverly Hills because of … reasons, I guess?  Another agent, Tiger (Shae Marks) teams up with a pilot named J. Tyler Ward (Christian Letelier) because it’s not a Sidaris film without someone flying a plane over the bayous.  To be honest, it seems like most of these people are just hanging out.  I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of them with any national security secrets.

Anyway, this is pretty much a typical Sidaris film: stuff blows up, everyone gets naked, and there’s a lot of bad jokes.  Even by the standards of a Sidaris film, the acting is incredibly bad.  Remember those scenes in Boogie Nights where Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly played Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell?  That’s about the level of talent that we’re talking about here.  To illustrate, here’s a typical scene from Day of the Warrior:

In short, it’s no Hard Ticket to Hawaii but at least Dallas looks good.

Book Review: You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming


(MAJOR SPOILERS)

You Only Live Twice, the 11th James Bond novel, opens 8 months after the tragic ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Tracy Bond is dead.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld has vanished.

And James Bond is no longer the man who readers thought they knew.

Over the course of the previous ten novels, one thing that remained consistent about Bond was his ruthless and unsentimental approach to his job.  For the first 9 books, Bond was the man who reacted to Vesper Lynd’s suicide by coldly announcing, “The bitch is dead.”  Then, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond finally fell in love and married, just to have Tracy murdered an hour later.  The first few chapters of  You Only Live Twice introduces us to a Bond who has become a shell of his previous self.  The man who used to always be in control of every situation is now drinking so heavily that it’s causing him to screw up at his job.  The once committed professional is now rarely in his office and, when he’s summoned to a meeting with M, he actually shows up late.

M has decided that he only has one option.  It’s time to demand Bond’s resignation.  The scene where M says that he has no choice but to fire his best agent is a shocking one.  For 10 books, Bond has been M’s best agent.  M is almost a paternal figure to Bond.  To read M casually talking about dismissing Bond not only shows us how far Bond has fallen but also reminds us that there’s no room for sentiment in intelligence work.

Fortunately, before going through with his plan to fire Bond, M speaks to a psychologist who explains that Bond is suffering from shock and that, in order to become the man that he once was, he needs to be given a task that will restore his confidence, an “impossible” mission.  If Bond succeeds, it’ll be the first step to dealing with his grief.  If Bond fails, his career will be over.

That’s how Bond eventually ends up in Japan, trying to convince the head of Japan’s secret service, Tiger Tanaka, to share intelligence with the British.  Tanaka says that he’s willing to do so if Bond does him a favor.  The mysterious Dr. Guntram Shatterhand has moved into an ancient castle and has set up his own “suicide garden.”  Tanaka wants Bond to kill Shatterhand.  Once Bond realizes that Shatterhand is actually Blofeld, he’s more than happy to do the favor.

Of course, it won’t be easy to penetrate Shatterhand’s castle.  However, with the help of actress Kissy Suzuki, Bond disguises himself as a mute Japanese miner named Taro Todoroki and heads out to get his revenge.

You Only Live Twice is one of the stranger Bond novels.  Far more than any of the other Fleming books, You Only Live Twice deals with Bond’s psychology.  In fact, the story is often so twisted that it’s tempting to wonder if perhaps the entire thing is some sort of fever dream.  Much like a German silent film, it sometimes seems as if the book’s bizarre and outlandish plot is actually a reflection of Bond’s twisted mind.  We’ve never seen Bond as self-destructive as he is at the start of this book and it’s probably not a coincidence that his mission leads him to a literal suicide garden.  When Bond transforms himself into Taro Todoroki, it allows him to leave behind the baggage of being Bond and only by denying his identity can he finally defeat Blofeld.  As for Blofeld, he’s such a bigger-than-life villain in this book that it sometimes tempting to think that he may have leapt fully formed out of Bond’s damaged psyche. Blofeld is the opponent that both Bond and Fleming needed.

And just as Bond found freedom in his new identity, it seems that it did the same thing for Ian Fleming as a writer.  There’s a liveliness to Fleming’s prose that suggests that he actually enjoyed writing this odd chapter of Bond’s life.

And then there’s that ending!  Despite the fact that I already gave a spoiler warning, I’m not going to reveal the ending because it’s one of the most shocking and unexpected endings in the history of the Bond novels.

Tomorrow, we finish up our look at Ian Fleming’s Bond novels with The Man With The Golden Gun.

Music Video of the Day: Everything Zen by Bush (1994, directed by Matt Mahurin)


Is Everything Zen by Bush the worst music video of all time?  Let’s break it down:

0:06 — For some reason, this shot of the birds taking off from the rooftop was one of the most overused shots of the 90s.  It means nothing.  Birds perch on building and then they fly away.  That’s what they do.  In this case, I think the birds are saying, “Let’s get out of here before Gavin starts singing.”

0:20 — The only shot that was a bigger cliché than birds flying off a rooftop?  The one of the woman standing at the end of a tunnel.

0:27 — Bush makes their first appearance and already they’re trying too hard.  Bush was not the first band to rip off Nirvana and Pearl Jam, they were just the most obvious.

0:31 — Gavin Rossdale sang something about getting something to eat so here’s someone in a pig mask, holding a fork.  Literal representations of Bush’s lyrics only serve to remind us of how stupid they are.

0:40 — In the video, Gavin sings “psycho brother.”  In the actual song, he says “asshole brother.”  I guess his asshole brother lives in Los Angeles and wears a pig snout.  In real life, Gavin Rossdale doesn’t have a brother so already he’s lying to us.

0:46 — This is where I really get pissed off.  There’s only one good lyric in this damn song and they stole it from David Bowie.  And no, saying “Dave’s on sale again,” doesn’t make it okay.

0:53 — The woman’s being carried away by someone.  We’re getting edgy now, folks.

1:00 — I can’t understand a word that Gavin’s singing and while I could look up the lyrics, I won’t.  Compare this part of the song to literally any Nirvana song.  Kurt Cobain’s lyrics were cryptic but still meant something.  Bush’s lyrics sound like they were cribbed from a 9th grader’s notebook.

1:11 — One of Bush’s trademarks was that, whenever they couldn’t come up with any new lyrics, they would just repeat the song’s title.  What does “Everything zen” even mean?

1:25 — Along with birds flying off of roofs and women standing at the end of tunnels, intense backlighting was another 90s music video cliché.  This video makes sure to touch all the bases.

1:31 — A mask and an exposed rib cage?  Is that zen?

1:35 — Gavin sings “demigod” as if he got the lyrics a half hour before recording the song.

1:45 — “There’s no sex in your violence.”  We’re getting even more edgy here, folks.

2:05 — Gavin’s back to repeating “everything zen.”

2:10 — The birds are back, still trying to escape the band.  That guitarist isn’t going to let them go that easy, though.

2:13 — Why were bands in the 90s always playing in abandoned warehouses?

2:24 — Leave Elvis out of this, you wanker!

2:34 — He really wants us to know that he doesn’t believe Elvis is dead.

3:06 — Back to “There’s no sex in your violence.”  If he doesn’t believe that Elvis is dead, why should we listen to him about anything?  Maybe there is sex in your violence.

3:28 — I always hear this lyric as “Trust you once, wagah.”

3:36 — Some dude wearing an animal skin.  Does he think Elvis is dead?

3:48 — The woman is back but, in another 90s music video cliché, she disappears while running away.

3:53 — Chill out, Gavin.

4:06 — It’s that final, anguised “zen!” that makes me want to punch the wall.

One final note: Bush was British but they were never big in the UK.  This is all on you, America!